Who's Up, Who's Down? NFC North

The Colts drew the NFC North as their non-conference opponents for 2008. Brad Keller breaks them down: Who took a step forward, who took a step back, who ran in place, and what it all means.

Chicago Bears:

Who They Added: Marty Booker, Brandon Lloyd, Kevin Jones.

Who They Lost: Brendon Avanbadejo, Bernard Berrian, John Gillmore, Reuben Brown, Antonio Garay, Jimmy Kennedy, Fred Miller, Darwin Walker, Muhsin Muhammad, Cedric Benson.

Who They Drafted: Chris Williams, Matt Forte, Earl Bennett, Marcus Harrison, Craig Steltz, Zack Bowman, Kellen Davis, Ervin Baldwin, Chester Adams, Joey LaRocque, Kirk Barton, Marcus Monk.

What it All Means: 

A lot is made of the fact that the Bears did not upgrade their quarterback options and that they lost their two starting receivers, replacing those men with two castaways in Booker and Lloyd and a return specialist in Devin Hester — who is still currently MIA.

What is missed in that analysis is that they are unsettled at tailback — although they do have a great deal of eligible talent — and that they lost a number of players on the interior of the defensive line and all along the offensive line. 

A team like Chicago will look to win the battles at the line of scrimmage and wear teams down with defense and a strong running attack.  With the losses and questions at those key positions, it will be a stiff task for them to win like they had been winning in 2005 and 2006.

Verdict: Addition by subtraction can only be taken so far — they took a step back.

The Lions need a big year from Jon Kitna to be competitive in an improving division
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Detroit Lions:

Who They Added: Chuck Darby, Michael Gaines, Gilbert Gardner, Brian Kelly, Calvin Pearson, Dwight Smith.

Who They Lost: Boss Bailey, Idees Bashir, Fernando Bryant, TJ Duckett, Kalimba Edwards, Kevin Jones, Kenoy Kennedy, Teddy Lehman, Langston Moore, JT O'Sullivan, Stephen Peterman, Blaine Saipaia, Troy Walters, Damien Woody, Barry Stokes.

Who They Drafted: Gosder Cherilus, Jordan Dizon, Kevin Smith, Andre Fluellen, Cliff Avril, Kenneth Moore, Jerome Felton, Landon Cohen, Caleb Campbell.

What it All Means:

Though they have sustained a good deal of negative press by targeting former Buccaneers in free agency, the more troubling part of their offseason was what they lost, as compared to what they gained.  Several starters on offense and defense departed for other teams.

While Detroit has been an unsuccessful franchise in this decade, it is still difficult to replace that many departed players in the short time frame of one offseason, particularly when so few replacements arrived via free agency and the draft.

They are unsettled at running back, lost a member of their offensive line and offensive mastermind Mike Martz, so it remains to be seen if their talented receiving corps can compensate for those shortfalls and if Jon Kitna has another miracle season up his sleeve.

However, head coach Rod Marinelli has a sterling reputation and seems to have the team guided in the right direction, so it will be up for the 2008 season to decide whether or not the Lions lost too much ground since the close of the 2007 season.

Verdict: They still lost too much and did not bring enough talent in to fill the gaps, so they took a step back.

Green Bay Packers:

Who They Added: Brandon Chillar.

Who They Lost: Colin Cole, Bubba Franks, Rob Davis, Ryan Krause, Craig Nall, Tyson Walker, Frank Walker, Corey Williams.

The Packers look primed for another good season, even if their QB isn't Brett Favre
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Who They Drafted: Jordy Nelson, Brian Brohm, Patrick Lee, Jermichael Finley, Josh Sitton, Jeremy Thompson, Matt Flynn, Breno Giacomini, Brett Swain.

What it All Means:

Although most of the offseason coverage has centered around the retirement drama surrounding Brett Favre, it has, otherwise, been a very quiet period for the Packers.  They lost very little of consequence, getting trade compensation from the Cleveland Browns for Corey Williams, and largely losing role players and second stringers in free agency, while adding special teamer Brandon Chillar.

With or without Favre, this is still a deeply talented and well-balanced team that advanced to last year's NFC Championship game.  They have lost very little and, the Favre controversy aside, seem primed to be a quality team in 2008.

Verdict: They ran in place.  For a team that finished 13-3 in 2007, that's a very enviable position to be in.

Minnesota Vikings:

Who They Added: Bernard Berrian, Michael Boulware, Michael Hicks, Jared Allen, Gus Ferotte, Derrick Pope, Benny Sapp, Thomas Tapeh, Madieu Williams, Ellis Wyms.

Who They Lost: Mike Doss, Kelly Holcomb, Spencer Johnson, Mewelde Moore, Tony Richardson, Darrion Scott, Dwight Smith, Dontarrious Thomas, Tank Williams.

Who They Drafted: Tyrell Johnson, John David Booty, Letroy Guion, John Sullivan, Jaymar Johnson.

What it All Means:

The Vikings were the darlings of the offseason and for good reason.  They added Allen to improve an already stellar defensive line in the hopes of improving their pass rush and, by proxy, their pass defense in 2008.

They already had the best run offense and best run defense in the league last season, but struggled throwing the ball and stopping the pass, with some teams completely abandoning the running game in favor of picking apart the secondary.

They still have the very green and untested Tavaris Jackson at quarterback, but otherwise have the look of a playoff team.  Whether or not they did enough to improve since 2007 remains to be seen, but what cannot be argued is that they tried everything they could to upgrade their roster for 2008.

Verdict: Chances are that Favre won't be wearing purple in September, but they still took a big step forward heading into this season.

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